It’s 1999. Flitwick has two Beer Guide entries in what will be forever known as the “comedy edition” of the Beer Guide*, before the venerable Mr Protz returned to rescue the Millennium edition.
Since that high watermark, Flitwick’s GBG well has run dry. Until now.
Flitwick is to Bedfordshire what, say, Winsford is to Cheshire. A workmanlike light industrial town that looks south for its cultural highlights (to Luton and to Crewe respectively).
Look how much I’ve seen of Greater Flitwick !
Ampthill has the Georgian architecture, the Waitrose, the classic Banks & Taylors pub. But Flitwick has the train station that will surely bring in the pub-ticking hordes.
Architecturally it’s a bit of a struggle, a modern arcade of shops near the Tesco lacking anything more exciting than a new Costa. As nearly always, the highlights are the pubs. A much depleted collection since 1999, for some inexplicable reason.
Having told you the new GBG is all micro pubs and Brewhouses, I’m pleased to report a couple of local boozers in Flitwick, owned by the cutting-edge Punch and Chas Wells.
The Crown greets you (in pub terms) with a toothless smile,
and inside the word “CRAFT”, Doom Bar font and hops on the ceiling don’t convince me this is a real ale stronghold, with just a group of cheery locals next door in the pool room.
But I’m wrong. The Nethergate Mild is cool and splendidly rich, worth at least NBSS 3.5.
Kraken bottles for candles is an original touch, the Pink soundtrack and Zappa quotation less so.
So once more the Guide gets it right, as it does at the Swan, opposite the station.
Here I realise the area is famous for the annual potato race (actually up the road in Flitton), for which Sky have recently acquired the rights.
It’s another wonderful proper pub, the regulars gathered at the bar debating which beer I should go for when I ask them for a steer.
It turns out to be the Black Sheep that they’re drinking (another NBSS 3.5), and one chap tells me the Swan ought to be in the Beer Guide, but fears it will be squeezed out by the “Old Guard“. I honour the embargo, of course, but hopefully he knows by now his vote was not in vain as the Swan attains its own Holy Grail.
Not a pub for the crafterati, but one for the pub connoisseur.
But the highlight comes in the village hall, where the Friday market is winding down. I miss Fudge Man, but the Thai Man serves me a superb Pad Thai for a fiver, and brings me his Sun to read while I wait.
There is no better place in the world to read about George’s first day at school.
*Ask Uncle Duncan, he’s the Official GBG historian.